For the life and health of my children: We MUST include Human Rights in the New Climate Accord

We humans have caused climate change, a real threat to humanity thus it requires human solutions.  We also have lost precious time on eternal discussions about the existence of climate change, despite imminent evidence.  Our efforts to deliver solutions must be inclusive and ambitious if they are to ensure that the lives and livelihoods of all people are protected.

If and how to include human rights protections in new climate accord was one of the primary issues discussed during October’s Bonn Climate Conference. These protections were notably left out of the no-text presented by the co-chairs, and then added back in at the insistence of several countries, many from the Global South, and hundreds of civil society organizations.

I could write a long list of legal, political, ethical, and economic arguments as to why human rights must be included in the Paris Agreement. In my opinion, however, they can all be distilled into two primary and powerful arguments: my children!

At 4 and nearly 2 years old, they are already experiencing the realities of a changing climate.  Some days, for example, they cannot go to the park because of increased air and climate pollution levels in Mexico City, be it black carbon or ozone, or both.  Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come, as hurricanes, droughts, floods, glacier loss, and fires are all increasing.

UntitledNow the question for my kids is not whether they will suffer from climate change, but to what extent.

Some may say I’m exaggerating, and that my kids aren’t among the most affected. They’re right.

Many others are suffering, and will continue to suffer, far worse consequences, such as: the Kunas in Panama, who are loosing their land due to sea-level rise; the 62 million people living on 52 small island states, including Tuvalu and Barbados; the 70 million people in the Andes, all of whom depend on water from glaciers and paramos, which are expected to dissapear within a few decades.

Despite the evident urgency, official responses have been shamefully slow. The United Nations recently announced that current national commitments aren’t enough to prevent world temperatures from surpassing 2oC by 2100, when my children will be 89 and 87 years old.

How, then, can we speed up agreements, increase ambition, and close the gap between what is needed and what is promised by States?

Human Rights are an important part of this answer. If implemented, they can help to:

  1. Recognize the realities of climate change and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights of all peoples, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
  2. Remind States of their existing obligations to protect and respect human rights, obligations which are fundamentally shared by corporations and other international entities. Incorporating human rights in the climate change agreement will not create new obligations; it will instead allow us to be consistent and comply with preexisting commitments.
  3. Avoid increased threats to world stability that have been linked to climate change due to impacts such as: local resource competition, livelihood insecurity, migration, extreme weather events and disasters, volatile food prices, transboundary water management, sea-level rise, coastal degradation, and the unintended effects of climate policies.
  4. Spur effective solutions, such as the rethinking of energy. These kinds of solutions haven’t yet been achieved due to a lack of ambition and political will.

For my son and daughter, and the millions of children of the world, we must accept that climate change is a human rights issue. For the health of future generations, and that of those already suffering from its impacts, we must do all we can to create effective solutions.

The new climate accord, which will be signed in Paris this December, must include human rights protections in its Preamble, as well as in its operative text. Only then, with an overarching respect for the rights of all people, can begin to see the results we need in the fight against climate change.

We must take the climate crisis seriously.

If not, we will be trapped in short-sighted negotiations that won’t provide my children the hope of a dignified and healthy life. They will be left inside, unable to play in the park, to enjoy the world beyond our doorstep. And those in more vulnerable situations may be left with nowhere at all to find the shelter they seek.

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Join AIDA in NYC for debut of Coral Reef Protection best practices

Join me and my AIDA colleagues on Wednesday, September 30th in New York City to celebrate AIDA’s work to defend coral reefs.  We are releasing a guide that will help governments craft the best possible protections for coral reef ecosystems. This publication (also available in Spanish) is the product of AIDA’s collaboration and partnership with Mayer Brown LLP and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice over the past two years. Together, we have worked with pro-bono attorneys from all over the world to identify best regulatory practices that can help ensure reef protection.

Coral reefs across the globe are being destroyed by coastal development and resource extraction, pollution, and the impacts of climate change.  AIDA is working to defend reefs in the Americas by helping governments improve protections, policies and laws.  The guide will be an essential tool in this work. Because the findings in the guide are broadly applicable, we hope to share it with reef advocates and governments in many nations.

Feel free to invite friends and colleagues, and forward this invitation to others you think might be interested either in our corals work or in AIDA in general.  Please RSVP online to attend!

Invited to Dance for Corals, April 10th!

You’re invited: “Dance for Corals!” in San Francisco Bay Area

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Coral reefs in the Americas are being destroyed by coastal development, pollution, and the impacts of climate change. AIDA – the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense – is working to reverse these impacts by collaborating with governments to improve protections, policies and laws.

The “Dance for Corals” on Friday, April 10 will be held at La Furia Chalaca, a traditional Peruvian bar and restaurant in Oakland, CA that is accessible by BART and with plenty of free street parking.

All proceeds will benefit AIDA’s work to protect corals and will feature:

• Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar
• Presentations by AIDA and Earthjustice attorneys
• Showing of “Parrotfish and Corals: A Love Story”
• Live music by Latin groove dance band Makru
Advance tickets are being sold online for $5 less than door price! Bring a friend or more and join us for a great evening.

Help us promote the event to friends and colleagues by passing on this information. Facebook Event @ https://www.facebook.com/events/809569129134318/

Thanks from all of us at AIDA!

CONSISTENCY: The Most Urgent Action Against Climate Change

During the first two weeks of December, world leaders will lay the foundation for a new global agreement on climate change at the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru. Its focus will be creating a draft agreement that, at next year’s COP in Paris, will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This time, as stated by Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister and next President of the Conference, “the world will not accept another failure.”

Not without reason. Each year we are both witnesses to and victims of the worsening impacts of climate change. And our role in the problem is conspicuous: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in their fifth report.

With COP20 nearing and recognition of the problem growing, world leaders are increasingly giving speeches, promising action and making hopeful commitments. One recent example is the unprecedented agreement between China and the United States, which established limits and objectives for the reduction of emissions. In Latin America we, too, have taken effective steps to confront the greatest threat to the human race.

Despite this progress, however, there remain in practice many policies that both created the problem and make it worse. In particular, the reliance of our economies on fossil fuels, which generate 57 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide. In the search for alternatives, we have boosted hydroelectric power from large dams. But dams are not clean energy. They generate significant amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, particularly in tropical regions. These and the other negative impacts of dams are often ignored, resulting in rudimentary solutions to climate change.

Consistency, then, becomes critical. What follows are examples of the lack of it in our own countries. Let’s take them into account as an effort to make adjustments, align objectives, and not erase with one hand what was written by the other:

  • Brazil is a key player in the region, and has demonstrated its will to achieve positive results on climate change. Proof of this is the historic decline of deforestation in the country, 79 percent in the last decade, as announced by Brazil’s President at the Climate Summit. However, Brazil continues to focus its development on fossil fuels, mining and large dams, particularly in the Amazon Basin. Under the influence of Brazil, 254 new dams are either under construction or in planning phases in the Amazon Basin, including the massive Belo Monte Dam on the Xingú River.

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